Why You Should Join a Support Group
I know what you’re thinking: “I would never go to a support group! Why would I want to sit around with a bunch of strangers talking about lung cancer and feeling sorry for each other? How depressing!”
I know, because I’ve heard many variations on that theme, and I used to think the same myself. Let’s face it, lung cancer is a depressing topic. If you have it, then you already know the weight it has added to your life; you are being forced to consider your own mortality, trying to figure out treatment options, wondering which doctor is the right one for you, and answering judgmental questions about your smoking history. But those are actually all of the reasons why a support group is exactly the right place for you.
Bonding Over Shared Experiences
These aren’t strangers; they are friends you haven’t met yet. Friends who know exactly what you have to deal with, because they are dealing with it, too. And if you don’t want to sit around and cry about your fate, what makes you think that they do?
Without exception, every person I have met who balked at the idea of a support group but was later introduced to someone else with lung cancer was immediately drawn to that person. There is just so much to talk about – What stage is yours? How did your doctor find it? Are you in treatment? How is it working for you? Are you working? Do you have to fight with your insurance company? How did your family take the news? And there are a set of challenges for lung cancer patients that are unique from other cancer types: stigma, judgment and shame that people often experience due to the public perception that people with lung cancer somehow deserve it. But your new friends will know better than that; and if they don’t, you can tell them: nobody deserves lung cancer.
The point is, when you get two strangers with lung cancer together…they aren’t strangers anymore. There is an immediate bond that forms when people have shared experiences. Support group meetings are often filled with laughter, uplifting stories, and practical advice on navigating a whole new set of challenges. It’s an opportunity to learn about other treatment options that you (and your doctor!) may not know about. It gives you a chance to bounce some thoughts off of someone who can truly empathize, because they have been there before.
Online or In-Person – The Connection Remains
Now, lung cancer survivors are just like anyone else – you may find that you enjoy some more than others. And sometimes there might be tears as people share their challenges. But, in general, you will probably find that people with lung cancer are just like you, more or less. They are people. And while I think you will find that the people in your support group give you something you didn’t even realize you needed, you may be surprised to find the most wonderful part is that they need what you have to give, too.
In-person support groups for lung cancer are fairly rare, in spite of the great need. There are a number of great online options for connecting with others, including the community forums on LungCancer.net. If you can’t find an in-person lung cancer support group in your area, consider starting one! It is not as hard as you might think, and can be a very rewarding and meaningful experience.